WASHINGTON (AP) _ President-elect Bush told ousted Panamanian President Eric Arturo Delvalle today that his administration will continue to seek the removal of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega from power.

''Our policy will be that Noriega must go. There should be no misunderstandin g about our policy,'' Bush said in a meeting with Delvalle, President Reagan and the president's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell.

The vice president's words in the closed meeting were relayed to reporters by White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

Fitzwater said Delvalle, who is recognized by the United States as Panama's legitimate authority, sought the meeting because of ''rumors and unfounded stories in Panama of a change in U.S. policy.''

''He was looking for assurance of steadfastness in U.S. policy,'' the spokesman said.

He said Delvalle did not suggest any changes in that policy. The United States has applied economic sanctions against Panama as part of its campaign against Noriega, who is under indictment in Florida on federal drug trafficking charges.

Fitzwater said there was no discussion of the possibility of Delvalle's resigning or of any relaxation or other change in the U.S. sanctions.

Neither, he said, was there any discussion of U.S. military action. He said ''the full range of sanctions and other options'' was under review but, ''We don't discuss military options.''

Fitzwater said Reagan commended Delvalle's courage and patriotism and promised his continued support, and Delvalle thanked the president and vice president for their backing.

The meeting lasted about 15 minutes. Fitzwater described it as ''a general discussion of where we go from here.''

Delvalle, who was deposed by forces loyal to Noriega last February and has lived in hiding in Panama ever since, met Wednesday afternoon with Secretary of State George P. Shultz shortly after his arrival from Panama aboard a U.S. military jet. Neither man spoke to reporters after the meeting.

Earlier, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley appeared to rule out U.S. military force to depose Noriega, saying that ''Panama's political crisis can be resolved only by Panamanians.''

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported in today's editions that, during a meeting in Panama City last week with Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Delvalle threatened to give up his struggle against Noriega unless the United States came up with a specific plan to remove him.

The Post said that according to notes of the secret meeting provided by a source, Delvalle said he saw no reason to continue making personal ''sacrifices'' without a specific plan of action to remove Noriega. The Post said the Dec. 11 meeting also was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Panama Arthur Davis and the commander of the U.S. military's Southern Command, Gen. Fred F. Woerner.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Roman Popadiuk said Wednesday the meeting today at the White House was designed ''to show visibly the U.S. support for the Delvalle government and for the people of Panama.''

Panama's Ambassador Juan B. Sosa, a Delvalle loyalist, said the deposed president wanted to discuss several options with administration officials and his supporters here.

Sosa said the Panamanian opposition must decide whether to contest presidential elections set for May.

He said one option is to boycott the election on grounds that Noriega is likely to rig the outcome. Alternatively, he said, the anti-Noriega forces could field a candidate whose entry into the race would demonstrate beyond doubt the breadth of the opposition to the military leader.

Since Delvalle's ouster, the United States has applied stiff economic sanctions against Panama but Noriega, under U.S. indictment on drug smuggling charges, still appears to be firmly in command.

Nonetheless, living standards are declining and the administration believes that the overwhelming majority of Panamanians hold Noriega responsible.

An administration effort to negotiate Noriega's departure from Panama collapsed last May and there has been no substantive contact between American and Panamanian authorities loyal to Noriega since then.